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Chinese and US flags flutter outside a company building in Shanghai, China, April 14. — Reuters/File

BEIJING: China and the United States will team up for the mixed doubles event at the World Table Tennis Championships finals this month on the 50th anniversary of “ping-pong diplomacy”, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) said on Monday.

“Ping-pong diplomacy” was triggered by a meeting between a Chinese and an American player at the 1971 world championships and helped mend relations between the two countries.

The meeting resulted in an American table tennis team being invited to China to play what the Chinese know as “ping-pong”, ultimately paving the way for US President Richard Nixon’s trip to the country in 1972.

China’s Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Manyu will partner Americans Lily Zhang and Kanak Jha, respectively, at the Nov 23-29 event in Houston, the ITTF said in a statement.

“I’m really happy to be partnering with Lily Zhang for the mixed doubles event,” Lin said. “She’s the top table tennis player in the US. I’m not China’s top player yet, but our goal is to come out on top for this event.

“The biggest advantage about pairing with her is that she speaks Mandarin. I hope we can get into the groove soon, develop good chemistry and work hard towards a great performance.”

The two American-Chinese pairings will “build on the China-US friendship” and open “a new chapter of ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ in this new era”, Chinese Table Tennis Association president Liu Guoliang said in a statement.

The ITTF declared that “history will be made in Houston”.

The 50th anniversary comes amid tense relations between the two countries, with the world’s top two economies at loggerheads over a number of issues, including the fate of China’s Uyghur minority and a clampdown in Hong Kong.

But Chinese officials and state media have hailed the anniversary as a largely positive opportunity to cele­brate ping-pong diplo­macy’s “wonderful legacy”.

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